The Lake Whatcom Reservoir is the source of drinking water to over 95,000 people in Whatcom County, including the 87,700 served by the City of Bellingham. It also provides a place to live for a variety of animals, fish and humans alike. Lake Whatcom has played an important role in the community’s history of logging, mining, and lumber mills. The health of this tremendously important resource is declining, and at a pace that is faster than expected.



Current and historical uses and activities in the watershed result in numerous challenges. Stormwater, nutrients, bacteria, aquatic invasive species, heavy metal pollution, hydrocarbons, pesticides, and climate change are all contributing to the decline in health of the lake. Of primary importance is the excess nutrient phosphorus, generated by residential properties and conveyed to the lake through public infrastructure, which has caused a significant decrease in dissolved oxygen levels in the water column and seasonal algal blooms on the surface. In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Lake Whatcom Total Maximum Daily Load study, which is a 30- to 50-year cleanup effort focused on reducing phosphorus inputs to Lake Whatcom by nearly 87%.



The restoration of water quality in the Lake Whatcom Watershed is a major undertaking which is projected to take up to 50 years to complete. The City of Bellingham and Whatcom County are implementing robust capital facility retrofits which could manage up to 75% of the excess phosphorus entering the Lake. The remaining 25% will need to be dealt with on private properties, voluntarily, by the homeowners living there. The HIP helps these residents install projects that protect and improve water quality, through both financial and technical assistance. These projects can be easily integrated into the existing landscape and allow the property owner to utilize their property how they want.

Consult the Lake Whatcom Management Program for more information about the ongoing programs and efforts to protect and preserve Lake Whatcom.